At The Movies

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(From Left) Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda collaborate on a misbegotten murder pact in “Moving On.” Photo: Aaron Epstein

Moving On

Actresses Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin forged identities as a successful sitcom team as co-stars of the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie,” which just finished a seven-year run on the Netflix streaming service, the longest-running series in the network’s history. They developed a ready rapport as mismatched friends who bond slowly over time to where they become testy besties, Fonda being an elegant entrepreneur left at sea after a painful divorce while Tomlin, a long-time art dabbler and smart aleck, exudes a more comic mode to confront her own surprise divorce.

In the wake of that series, the two 80-year-olds star in “Moving On” as estranged friends who reunite to seek revenge on the querulous widower Howard (Malcolm McDowell), husband of their recently deceased best friend (the film, rated “R,” runs 85 minutes and is now showing in local area theaters.)

The film opens with Fonda–as Claire–returning to a California town where she grew up to attend the funeral for a best friend she’s known since college.   Evie (Tomlin) also shows up. 

While in town, Claire runs across Ralph (Richard Roundtree), her second husband whom she divorced suddenly, and they rekindle some of their old affection over dinner with his new family.  She has never explained her sudden exit from their marriage, but we learn (in a reveal to Evie)  that it has to do with a nasty encounter with Howard buried in her past, the reason for her murder plans.

Fonda and Tomlin have an easy rapport, with the former a study in up-and-down anxiety and the latter a paragon of “moving on” from the muddled past—who also has a secret regarding their departed friend.  Much of the spirit of their relationship will be familiar from those who know their Netflix series, but in “Moving On” Fonda is less quippy and Tomlin is more hippy. 

Roundtree, now 80 and fifty years after his breakthrough as “Shaft,” still exudes smooth sexiness as Ralph, fit and cool and bald. In a film of smart performances, the odd man out is McDowell, way too cantankerous and acerbic to be taken seriously (but perhaps worthy of murder?).  He plays a character rather like his egotistic orchestra conductor in the Amazon series “Mozart in the Jungle” (also directed and produced by Paul Weitz), a conniver and sleaze. 

While no masterpiece, “Moving On” offers us at least another tart Tomlin in a crafty Weitz comedy like their decent earlier joint effort “Grandma” (2015).

Arizona to Rally Against Native Mascots in Phoenix, AR. Photo courtesy of the Ciesla Foundation

Imagining the Indian:
The Fight Against Native American Mascoting

“Imagining the Indian” is an advocacy documentary film examining the movement to eradicate the words, images, and gestures that many Native Americans and their allies find demeaning and offensive.  The film opens with a telling historical introduction to the stereotyping of Indian lives and mores present in American life since—as one observer notes—”the Original Sin occurred the minute Europe touched Native shores in North America.”  It then catalogs the decades-long fight Indian lobbying and protest groups have made to change that state of affairs, especially in the world of sports and media, using examples that have become notorious, like the Atlanta Braves’ cringe-worthy tomahawk “chop” (shown in the film with a clip featuring Jane Fonda and Ted Turner). 

The film highlights the accelerating pace of addressing “mascoting,” with emphasis on the recent successful cases regarding changes made by Washington’s National Football League (NFL) team adopting the name of the Commanders, and Cleveland’s Major League Baseball (MLB) team becoming the Guardians. 

Other professional teams—Kansas City’s NFL team, Chicago’s NHL team, and Atlanta’s MLB team—are discussed, too, but their owners remain adamant that they will never change their team names or practices (just as the Redskins did).  The movie indicates that there are harmful Indian mascots all over the country and myriad secondary schools still have harmful Native-American themed mascots.  “Imagining the Indian” seeks to shine a light on these ongoing harms.

Interviewees include several spokespersons from the DC area such as Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), Founding Director of the National Museum of the American Indian, W. Richard West Jr. (Southern Cheyenne), Under Secretary for Museums and Culture at the Smithsonian, Kevin Gover (Pawnee), among many others.

“Changing the names for the Washington Football team and Cleveland’s baseball team was long overdue,” said the film’s co-director Aviva Kempner, “but the victory is only piecemeal until names are also changed in Atlanta for baseball, in Chicago for hockey, and in Kansas City, and don’t ignore the almost 2,000 other teams with problematic names.” Kempner is a DC-based filmmaker who has directed documentaries on baseball star Hank Greenberg and on the Molly Goldberg TV show. 

Her co-director Ben West (Cheyenne tribe) added that ‘“Imagining the Indian” addresses the misrepresentation of Native peoples in sports, television, movies, pop-culture, and beyond, familiar examples of which are liberally depicted throughout the movie, such as the subservient Tonto in the Lone Ranger shows and the “savage” identity of Indians in innumerable Western movies. West noted the filmmakers are proud that the film is a product of Indian Country.

“Eradicating mascoting of Native people will rid us of its perniciousness, which is that exposure to it is at the root of negative stereotyping and treatment of all people of color,” said the film’s co-producer Kevin Blackistone, an ESPN panelist and professor at the University of Maryland who also writes sports commentary for The Washington Post. (The film opens in the DC area on April 4. 2023).

Hill resident Mike Canning has written on movies for the Hill Rag since 1993 and is a member of the Washington Area Film Critics Association. He is the author of “Hollywood on the Potomac: How the Movies View Washington, DC.” His reviews and writings on film can be found online at www.mikesflix.com.